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Review: The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List

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The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List: 100 Space Things to Do Before You Die
by Loretta Hall
Rio Grande Books, 2016
paperback, 128 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-943681-01-3

At some point in recent years, the idea of a “bucket list” came into vogue. The idea is to draw up a list of things to do—places to visit, books to read, and so on—before you die. On the one hand, the concept of a bucket list sounds a little morbid: who wants to think about death? On the other hand, though, the creation of a bucket list can help focus the mind and prioritize what is really important.

For those with a particular interest in such lists, The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List offers a ready-to-go list of space-related activities for space enthusiasts. The book counts down the list of activities, which range from reading books and watching movies to (at number one) going into space.

The book casts a pretty broad net of activities in its list. Some involve little more than visiting a web page, such as one for a “virtual tour” of a NASA center. Others involve actual trips to museums, launch sites, and the like. Still others are more ambitious, and expensive, like skydiving and astronaut training.

It turns out I’ve done nearly two-thirds of the activities on the list.

While many of the activities are in the core of spaceflight, others seem tangentially related, at best. Besides the skydiving example (which includes an “indoor skydiving” activity as well), one activity is to eat at a “Space Aliens Grill & Bar” in North Dakota or Minnesota, where they serve “Martian Munchies” and “Spaceship Supreme Pizza.” Another activity is to have a star named after you through the International Star Registry, a company whose names have no official influence and which is viewed unfavorably by most professional astronomers.

Still, there are some gems in this brief book (each of the 100 items gets one page, consisting of a paragraph or two plus a photo.) Not only does it suggest buying meteorites, it includes an entry for learning how to search for them yourself. It also includes some citizen science activities, like searching for particles in aerogel from NASA’s Stardust mission.

Out of curiosity, I went through the list of 100 items and checked off those I had done, in one form or another (I counted, for example, the activity of a virtual tour of NASA Goddard even though I hadn’t taken that specific tour, having been at the center in person many times.) It turns out I’ve done nearly two-thirds of the activities on the list. It’s unlikely I’ll complete the list any time soon: I have little interest in, say, touring the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico, or learning Klingon. And it’s highly unlikely I’ll be going to space for the foreseeable future, given the prices of even suborbital spaceflights versus the size of my bank account. But that’s fine: I don’t plan to be kicking the bucket any time soon, I hope.